Canadian Dad in Poland Trying for Return of Abducted Sons


Source: Fathers and Families

December 12th, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The more we see of international child abduction by parents, the less effective the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seems. 

The Convention is supposed to require signatory countries to return children to their non-abducting parent within 60 days of apprehension.  But the simple fact is that it seldom seems to work.

This may well be another example (Toronto Star, 12/10/11).

Stephen Watkins of Ontario lost his two sons – Alexander, 10 and Christopher, 7 – back in March of 2009.  They were abducted by their non-custodial mother, Edyta Watkins.  Stephen and Edyta were divorced and he had gained primary custody.

Stephen Watkins contends his ex-wife was suffering from post-partum depression and became abusive toward him six months after giving birth to their first child. After a court battle, a judge granted him custody of the children with his ex-wife having access to the boys on weekends.

Then, one Monday morning, his sons’ school called to say the boys hadn’t shown up for class.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant for abduction was issued for their mother, and her name appeared on the RCMP’s most wanted list. York Regional Police allege the mother and children drove into the U.S. and then flew to Germany.

After that, the trail went cold.

So, his first child is now 10 years old.  He was abducted by the mother at age eight.  Her emotional/psychological abuse of Stephen began six months after Alexander was born.

After over two years, he’s finally located them in his ex-wife’s native Poland.  He traveled to Warsaw and visited briefly with his two boys who looked much the same, but behaved very differently than before.

The short encounter was bittersweet.

“When I see my kids, they don’t call me daddy,” said Watkins. “They call me by my first name.” He accused his ex of brainwashing them.

Another article reports it this way (CTV, 12/10/11).

“They looked the same after two-and-a-half years,” Watkins told CTV News Saturday in an interview from Poland. “But they looked very stressed out and they seemed very angry…I can understand it would be very confusing for children.”

In short, the mother, who emotionally abused Watkins badly enough to lose custody and then abducted the children, seems now to be alienating them as well.

Canadian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Edyta Watkins when she first abducted the boys, but Canada and Poland have no extradition treaty, so her criminal wrongdoing will go unpunished as long as she remains in Poland.

That leaves the Hague Convention as Stephen’s only recourse to get his children back and away from their mother who appears to be willing to abuse anyone in her family in order to deprive her ex-husband of his children.  Mental health professionals long ago identified parental child abduction as child abuse, and so it seems here.  After only a few minutes with his boys, Watkins could tell their abduction, separation from him and possible alienation were causing the boys emotional/psychological harm.

But the more we see of the Hague Convention, the more frail a reed it appears on which to rely to protect children from exactly the type of abuse the Watkins boys have experienced.  The Watkins case is a perfect example of one in which the Polish court should immediately order the children returned to their father.  He’s the parent with primary custody and there’s evidence that the mother is less than fit.  Into the bargain, she obviously wants to deny the children a father.

So the case is a slam-dunk win for Stephen Watkins, right?  After all, his is exactly the type of case the Convention is supposed to address.

Not so fast.  In the first place, even if the court issues the right order this Thursday when it hears the case, it’s so far taken no action to prevent the mother from absconding with the children again.  You’d think that would be an obvious thing to do given the known facts of the case, but so far no order has been issued.

And when the court does hear the case, it can always decide that the children have gotten used to their new surroundings and it would therefore not be in their best interests to re-place them in their father’s care.  We’ve seen British courts do that more than once recently under circumstances that made clear that the words “best interests of the child” were just a proxy for pro-mother bias.

What’s to prevent that in the Watkins case?  Nothing that I can see.  Maybe that’s why the title of the CTV article says the children are “in legal limbo.”  Face it, the Convention is clear and Stephen Watkins’ rights are clear; so are his children’s.  The only “legal limbo” is whether the Polish court will enforce those rights.  Or will it fall back on the excuse that the boys have been in Poland for two of their 10 and 7 years and so, in some way, they need to remain there rather than returning to the country in which they’ve spent almost their entire lives?

You wouldn’t think a court could ignore all the obvious reasons to return the children to their father and to their home country, but we’ve seen it done too many times to hold out a lot of hope for Stephen Watkins and his boys.

We’ll see.  So far, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seems to be violated by judges almost as often as by parents.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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International Child Abduction / Parental Kidnapping – Recovery Services


International Child Abduction is tragically a global epidemic.

Leading experts believe that due to the rapid growth in multi-national marriages and relationships, the number of children born from parents of different countries will continue to expand. Similar to all relationships, a significant portion of these marriages or partnerships will end in divorce. All too often, one of the separating parents of the child of the relationship will seek to abduct the child to a country other than where the child has lived.

This is called ‘International Parental Child Abduction’, and though there are various civil remedies available to targeted parents who have had their child abducted, the challenges they face are grave, and include first and foremost, locating where the child is located. Unfortunately for the majority of targeted parents, the financial burden for recovery and litigation falls on their shoulders. With tens of thousands of children parentally abducted each year, the reality is too many of these children never come home. ABP World Group is dedicated to assisting parents in need of assistance in locating, rescuing, and safely bringing home your abducted child.

Our intelligence and investigation abilities combined with our ability to dispatch personnel to most locations in the world offer a safe and strategic solution to protecting your most important asset: your child.

Areas of expertise:

Parental abduction

Missing children

Kidnappings

Counter Kidnapping

Anti Kidnapping

Runaway children

Reunification Counseling

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult period. We are aware parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but we use professional operatives with the skills and expertise to help find a resolution.

One key to ABP World Group’s successful recovery and re-unification of your loved one is to use all necessary means available including, but not limited to:

Electronic Forensic Foot printing Investigations

Intelligence Gathering

Information Specialists/Skip Tracing

Evidence Procurement

Interview/Evaluation

Surveillance Special Ops

Non-Combatant Evacuation Ops

Domestic Support

International Operations

Maritime/Land/Air transport

Visit our website here: www.abpworld.com

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Custody Laws – Violating the Custody Order Through Parental Kidnapping


If you are lucky to have your child back after he or she was kidnapped by your ex-spouse, you will now have to deal with another nightmare: the resulting trauma on your child.

The effects of parental kidnapping are emotionally, developmentally and psychologically devastating on children who in a moment were stolen away from their entire world of familiarity. Parents stealing children after a high conflict custody battle is not uncommon. Surprisingly more than 50 percent of these kidnappings take place during a scheduled visitation after which the child is not returned.

Taking a child away and concealing his or her location to the custodial parent in violation of a visitation order is a crime and a form of child abuse. Parental abduction has permanent ramifications in the victim’s life. The emotional effects on the abducted child can be as harmful as those of sexual abuse or neglect. After such an experience, children tend to be more timid, clingy, and relate poorly to others.

In her presentation to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights titled “Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse”, Dr. Nancy Faulkner identified nine of the many harmful effects parental abduction can have on a child:

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Fear and Phobias
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Guilt
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Parental Alienation
  • Separation Anxiety and Fear of Abandonment
  • Grief

If you have been in a prolonged and highly conflictive custody and visitation battle, you must rigorously adhere to the guidelines in the order. The same is applicable to your ex-spouse. He or she must abide to the time share percentages and visitation calendar conformed in the order. Many custodial parents are so drained after a custody dispute that they avoid having to go to court in order to enforce or modify the order. However, it is your obligation to watch over your child’s health, safety and welfare. A parent who regularly fails to comply with the visitation schedule or percentages of time share is not acting right. He or she is acting in contempt of the court. He or she is been disrespectful to you, to your child, and to our legal system. This parent is not a good role model for your child, and in fact, he or she might turn out to be a bad influence for your kid.

Repetitive violations to the custody and visitation order mean that you must go back to court to have the order enforced. The parent who regularly fails to comply with the visitation schedule is relating in an erratic and unhealthy manner with your child. This type of conduct should be addressed and penalized from the very start, in order to avoid a more serious violation, such as your child being kidnapped by your ex-spouse.

Find out about the custody laws that will impact your case, and learn how to get the custody order you want.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Caleb_Jonsun

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Father fights for daughter in parental kidnapping case


Source:  Jessica Rush, Planojobs.us June 13, 2011

Ronnie Baker / Staff Photo –For the last two years, Plano father Bart Hermer has dedicated his life to seeing his daughter returned from overseas. Alessia was abducted by her mother and represents one of more than 200,000 family abduction cases in the United States every year
Bart Hermer carries a pacifier with him at all times. It’s purple with flecks of glitter and has the words “Princess Alessia” scrolled across the plastic.
He keeps the soother as a small comfort of his own — a reminder that his 2-year-old daughter, Alessia, is still out there and waiting to be reunited with her father.For now, Alessia lives in the United Kingdom with her mother, 40-year-old Simmone Cohen, who is a British citizen. Hermer and his parents have spent around $75,000 on an international custody battle that has left them drained both monetarily and emotionally.

Every night, Hermer sleeps on a bed in the nursery to feel closer to his daughter, but an empty crib is a constant reminder that the woman who first stole his heart, also stole his most precious possession.
Blindsided
Hermer and Cohen’s relationship started out as a picture-perfect romance. He fell for her British accent and stunning looks when they met on a single’s cruise in 2007, and months later they were visiting each other’s countries. The aging couple talked about both wanting children, so within a matter of months they were engaged.”I swear on my daughter’s life, heart and soul we never had an argument,” Hermer said, reflecting on the blissful times. “We were the envy of everybody we knew.”

The two began planning for a wedding at the Dallas Arboretum — plans that were delayed when Cohen found out she was pregnant with Alessia. When the baby was 10 months old, Cohen planned a regular trip for the three of them to visit her family in London. Hermer said he had just been laid off from his job as an advertising executive, but Cohen had income from her marketing business she ran from their Plano home.

While going through customs at the London airport, Hermer was pulled aside and questioned. A customs officer accused him of trying to enter the country with the intention to live there — information Hermer’s fiancee had told them. As much as Hermer denied the story, he was sent back to the United States alone, and Cohen and Alessia remained in England.

“I was set up,” Hermer said. “The truth was she just wanted a baby.”

Back in Texas, Cohen’s designer clothes still hang in the closet. Her laptop was left behind, and a Plano detective confirmed in writing that she wrote messages contradicting their happy engagement.

“I definitley [sic] don’t want to marry him,” Cohen wrote in one Skype message to a family member. “… he knows I am delaying things so he may have guessed,” she wrote to a friend.

“She played him like a sucker,” Hermer’s mother, Kathy, said. “She lied about everything.”

An epidemic
The Hermer’s are not alone in their daily struggle with parental kidnapping. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) estimates more than 200,000 family abduction cases occur annually in the United States.

In cases involving children taken from the United States to the United Kingdom, 92 percent of cases are unresolved for longer than a year, and 38 percent are unresolved for more than five years, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.

Hermer has tried to use international child abduction laws from the Hague Convention to get Alessia back. Article 3 of the convention talks about the “rights of custody” and says the courts must use the law of the state — in this case Texas — where the child was a resident before being abducted.

Even with letters of support from Texas Senators Florence Shapiro and Jane Nelson and state Rep. Jerry Madden, most of Hermer’s evidence was not allowed in the British court.

“I was not given a fair trial,” Hermer said. “I have solid evidence from credible people … and that evidence was not allowed. A lot of these countries will not return a child because of gender bias.”

After a crushing loss with denial of appeal, Hermer is trying a different approach. He hopes Attorney General Greg Abbott will push to have Cohen extradited to Texas on felony kidnapping charges.

“If my child stays there, it sets the precedent for thousands of children in the future,” Hermer said.

Time is ticking
Two years have passed with Hermer devoting his life to studying state and federal parental kidnapping law. He now works as assistant director of the Global Missing Children Fund.
Precedence from other international kidnapping cases shows that courts consider a child acclimated to their new country once they reach 3 years old. After that point, the courts are reluctant to return the child.

“I’ve got six months,” Hermer said, desperation in his voice. “She’s my life. She’s my pride. I don’t want to catch up with her in my 70s.”

He sees her occassionally when he is allowed to enter England for scheduled court hearings, but the trips are expensive and visitation is never guaranteed.

“When they are together it’s like they’ve never been separated for a moment,” Kathy said. “They had such a tight bond.”

Hermer is praying that someone will hear Alessia’s story and know how to help. While he is openly thankful for the ongoing support from Jewish Family Services, a separate fund has been set up for donations to offset some of the court costs at www.firstgiving.com/Bring-Alessia-Home.

“I’ll never quit until she’s in that crib,” he said. “I don’t care what it takes.”

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Attorney advise non-custodial parents to request the children’s passports be held by the Court


A TIP FOR PREVENTING PARENTAL ABDUCTION OF A CHILD TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY

CNN posted an article in October of 2009 that raised the question about what a parent can do to prevent child abduction. According to the article, Christopher Savoie, an American father, was granted full custody of his children by a Tennessee Court after learning that they were removed to Japan without his consent by their mother. He went to Japan to retrieve the children and was put in jail for his attempt to abduct his own children.

Japan is not a signator to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Mr. Savoie was arrested by Japanese police officers called by the children’s mother when he attempted to take the children to the American consulate to obtain their passports to return to the U.S.

In cases involving worries of abduction, I advise non-custodial parents to request the children’s passports be held by the Court. A passport may be issued to a parent with sole custody, and any parent with worry that the other may abduct the child is encouraged to push for a joint legal custody order, to prevent the unconsented-to issuance of a passport. Additionally, when parties settle, I include language indicating that Minnesota shall have sole exclusive jurisdiction over custody and parenting time disputes. However, I also advise my clients that I cannot guarantee a foreign Court will feel bound by that language.

The U.S. State Department’s web site for obtaining a passport for a minor child can be reached at http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/minors/minors_834.html.

The passport application form specifies the document requirements to obtain a passport, which include:

To submit an application for a child under age 16 both parents or the child’s legal guardian(s) must appear and present the following:

  • Evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship,
  • Evidence of the child’s relationship to parents/guardian(s), AND
  • Parental/guardian identification.

 

IF ONLY ONE PARENT APPEARS YOU MUST ALSO SUBMIT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • Second parent’s notarized written statement consenting to passport issuance for the child,
  • Primary evidence of sole authority to apply, OR
  • A written statement (made under penalty of perjury) explaining the second parent’s unavailability.

Cooper & Reid, LLC is a Minnesota law firm focusing on family law and social security disability matters for clients of modest means. Our community-focused practice brings many years of experience and high-quality legal representation to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. We offer sliding scale fees to low-income clients and innovative representation arrangements for pro se litigants. Find out more about Cooper & Reid, LLC at www.cooperandreid.com 

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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